The families of fire chief Les Bilmer and captain John Lortie were joined on Saturday, October 6, by uniformed South Dundas firefighters, dignitaries and members of the community for the re-dedication of a memorial plaque in honour of the two men and of the Morrisburg firefighters who have served over the last 70 years.
Also dedicated was a plaque recognizing the members of the current South Dundas Fire and Emergency Services.
In his address, Morrisburg deputy chief, Kevin Keyes, recalled that it was almost 20 years to the day that the original memorial plaque was dedicated in 1992, through the inspiration of then chief, Les Bilmer.
“After the passing of Les and Captain John Lortie, the Bilmer family and the Lortie family gave a very generous donation to this fire department,” Keyes said. “We did not want to spend the donations on tools and equipment but rather something that would pay tribute to these two highly respected firemen.”
He pointed out that the firefighters looked at a number of different ideas, and finally decided that the original plaque should be refurbished, updated and relocated to the wall of the fire hall.
In this new location, the plaques would not only be “paying tribute to Les and John, but to all firefighters who have served this community.”
The plaques were officially unveiled at Saturday’s ceremony by Inez Bilmer and Julie Lortie as piper Jack Yourt played and those gathered at the ceremony applauded.
South Dundas mayor Steven Byvelds, on behalf of the South Dundas council and the township, said that “we have come to honour those past and present who have dedicated themselves to the community. We are always able to count on our firefighters in our time of need, and we are proud to have these plaques recognizing them.”
Chief of South Dundas Fire and Emergency Services, Chris McDonough, thanked the Bilmer and Lortie families for their generosity, and praised the efforts of deputy chief Keyes and assistant deputy chief Brian St. Pierre in bringing the project to completion. “Members of the South Dundas firefighters are a diverse and terrific group. I feel fortunate for having been given the opportunity to work alongside our men and women in the firefighters.”
Brian McBain, from the Ontario Fire Marshall’s Office also expressed his deep appreciation for the generosity of the Bilmer and Lortie families for making this “recognition of our firefighters possible.”
Inez Bilmer told the audience that her late husband, Les, was a proud member of the Morrisburg Fire Department for 33 years. “He took a great deal of pride in his fellow firefighters and the department in general. When we lost Les, our family was deeply touched by the outpouring of kindness and camaraderie demonstrated by the department. These are things that are never forgotten.”
Julie Lortie said that Saturday’s ceremony of dedication would have meant a great deal to her husband, John. “The fire department was a very big part of his life. I think he would also be very proud that his son Bradley, and his stepson, Jason Denio, are both following in his footsteps as firefighters.”
Kevin Keyes concluded his address with a remark from the original 1992 dedication ceremony, made by Lorne Campbell, then editor of the Canadian Fire Fighter magazine.
“Somewhere down the road, in another 20 or 25 years, somebody is going to be talking about you, and they will be respecting you, the way that you and I respect the members who have given their services to this community.”